Are Migraines Making You Miserable?

Migraines are more than really bad headaches. In addition to throbbing head pain, migraine symptoms include sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, vomiting, vertigo, dizziness and sudden mood changes. They can cause agonizing pain that leaves you huddled in a dark room with a cold cloth on your forehead for hours or even days.

Are you tired of unpredictable migraines derailing all your plans? Let’s take a look at what triggers migraines and key lifestyle changes and supplements that can help.

Who is at Higher Risk of Migraines?

Genetics play a big role in who gets migraines. According to research, migraine tendencies are hereditary – but your genes only speak to your risk of getting migraines. Lifestyle and environmental factors can determine which gene expressions are turned on and off.
So even if migraines run in your family, you may never typically experience one. But if you go through a period (and who doesn’t?) of high stress, bad food choices and too little sleep, a migraine may strike out of the blue.

Women Are More Likely Than Men To Get Migraines

Women are three times as likely than men to get migraines. Changes in estrogen levels are a key migraine trigger factor, so the fluctuation of a monthly cycle, the onset of menopause, or a hormonal imbalance that is difficult to predict can all lead to issues. It’s not surprising men are at a much lower migraine risk.

Common Migraine Triggers and How to Avoid Them

Migraines truly demonstrate the importance of personalized medicine. What triggers a migraine for one person, has no effect on another. Individual triggers are important to identify, but it’s usually a combination of triggers that bring on a migraine. Migraine-sensitive individuals have a ‘migraine threshold’ that can be met by numerous combinations and permutations of triggers. Once that threshold is crossed, the migraine is on its way.

Let’s take a look at some key triggers- see if any of these ring a bell!

Hormonal Changes

Changes in estrogen levels are key migraine triggers. Key life events that feature estrogen such as your period, pregnancy and menopause are all times when migraines are more likely to strike.

Low Estrogen

Low estrogen levels often go hand in hand with low serotonin levels, which can further contribute to a migraine by encouraging release of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). Not to mention the wild mood swings.

Stress Related Hormone Fluctuations

Stress interplays with our hormone pathways as well, creating the imbalance that triggers the migraine. Have you noticed that you get migraines more often after a difficult day? You’re not alone!

Foods and Beverages

Migraine food triggers are as individual as people. Food Sensitivity Testing can identify your personal food triggers, so you can avoid them. Here are the biggest migraine offenders:

● Alcohol (especially red wine), coffee
● Processed foods
● Gluten
● Dairy
● Sugar
● Aged cheese
● Additives like MSG, nitrates or aspartame

Sensory and Toxin Overload

Avoid situations that involve bright lights, loud sounds and exposure to chemical smells. Paint, perfume and cleaning products are the worst triggers, as they contain hormone-disrupting environmental toxins.

Check Your Personal Care Products

Avoid chemical-laden personal care products and cleaners, and opt for more natural choices. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a great resource for toxin-free living. Their Guide to Healthy Cleaning rates more than 2,500 cleaning products and their Skin-Deep Cosmetics Database rates over 87,000 products for toxicity risk. Don’t forget about sunscreen! Their 2020 Guide to Sunscreens is now out, featuring the safest sunscreens for sports, children, and moisturizers with SPF.

Weather Changes

You may notice you get migraines when it’s very humid, or on rainy days. Barometric pressure is the most common weather trigger, but you might also be reacting to changes in humidity, temperature, wind and sun conditions.

Limit Your Migraine Triggers At Any One Time

You can’t control the weather, but you can control how many triggers you’re exposed to at the same time if you know the weather is about to change. Some weather apps include ‘migraine forecasts’. Barometric pressure can change hours or even days before we actually see a storm. So, if a migraine strikes on a clear, sunny day, chances are a storm is brewing. Consider yourself an early-warning storm system!

Daily Routine Changes

Our bodies function best with a consistent food and sleep routine. Skipping lunch to finish that work project? Staying up late to do laundry? Skimping on your water intake?

Too much disruption to your ideal routine and migraines could result. Try to keep at least one routine consistent, and not change too much at a time. Add alarms to your phone to keep sleep and meals on track. Your body will thank you by not going in migraine mode!

Medications

When a migraine hits, you’ll do almost anything to make the pain stop. Pain medications are a common solution, but over time they can make your migraines appear more often, cause more pain, and last longer. The same goes for medications for other migraine symptoms like nausea and vertigo, and high blood pressure meds.

Preventing Or Reducing Migraines

Did you see any familiar triggers in this list? The tricky thing is that what triggered you last week may not trigger you this week. Here are some tips that may help you prevent your next migraine, or reduce its severity:

Keep A Migraine Diary

Keeping a migraine diary for one to three months will reveal your migraine trigger patterns. With so many potential triggers, it’s vital to know what combination of circumstances will push you over your personal migraine threshold. Apps such as Canadian Migraine Tracker, Migraine Buddy and Migraine Monitor make it easy to track your triggers. Paper diary templates are available too.

Yoga & Relaxation

As stress and migraines are closely linked, any relaxation practice like mediation, Tai Chi or breathing exercises will reduce your migraine risk. Regular yoga practice can help by reducing anxiety and upper body tension, improving circulation and promoting relaxation. A May 2020 study concluded that “Yoga as an add-on therapy in migraine is superior to medical therapy alone.”

A Nutrient Rich Diet

Which nutrients are effective for migraine treatment? Research shows that magnesium (a.k.a. the relaxation mineral) and CoQ10 supplementation can significantly decrease migraine frequency, duration and severity.

Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine also has much to offer migraine sufferers. Feverfew and ginger are both ancient herbal migraine remedies, and modern clinical research now supports their efficacy. Ginger also makes a delicious after dinner tea to help you relax and digest!

Don’t Let Your Migraines Linger Untreated

The longer migraines disrupt your life, the more likely that additional issues like depression and anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, constipation and chronic pain in other areas of the body may appear.

We can look at genetic testing to see if you’re at higher migraine risk, Food Sensitivity Testing to find your food triggers, and check your hormone levels to get the full picture. Get in touch with us and let’s work together on a personalized treatment plan with nourishing nutrients that will get you out of non-functioning migraine mode, and ready to face all life’s challenges pain-free.

References:
Migraine Canada
American Migraine Foundation
Migraine Research Foundation
Association of Migraine Disorders
Migraine Trust

Aggarwal M, Puri V, Puri S. Serotonin and CGRP in migraine. Ann Neurosci. 2012;19(2):88‐94. doi:10.5214/ans.0972.7531.12190210

Anttila V, Wessman M, Kallela M, Palotie A. Genetics of migraine. Handb Clin Neurol. 2018;148:493‐503. doi:10.1016/B978-0-444-64076-5.00031-4

D’Onofrio, F., Raimo, S., Spitaleri, D. et al. Usefulness of nutraceuticals in migraine prophylaxis. Neurol Sci 38, 117–120 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10072-017-2901-1

de Boer I, van den Maagdenberg AMJM, Terwindt GM. Advance in genetics of migraine. Curr Opin Neurol. 2019;32(3):413‐421. doi:10.1097/WCO.0000000000000687

Edvinsson L. Role of CGRP in Migraine. Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2019;255:121‐130. doi:10.1007/164_2018_201

Ferroni P, Barbanti P, Spila A, et al. Circulating Biomarkers in Migraine: New Opportunities for Precision Medicine. Curr Med Chem. 2019;26(34):6191‐6206.
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Ghorbani Z, Togha M, Rafiee P, et al. Vitamin D in migraine headache: a comprehensive review on literature. Neurol Sci. 2019;40(12):2459‐2477. doi:10.1007/s10072-019-04021-z

Gormley P, Anttila V, Winsvold BS, et al. Corrigendum: Meta-analysis of 375,000 individuals identifies 38 susceptibility loci for migraine. Nat Genet. 2016;48(10):1296. doi:10.1038/ng1016-1296c

Kumar A, Bhatia R, Sharma G, et al. Effect of yoga as add-on therapy in migraine (CONTAIN): A randomized clinical trial [published online ahead of print, 2020 May 6]. Neurology. 2020;10.1212/WNL.0000000000009473. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000009473

Maghbooli M, Golipour F, Esfandabadi A, Yousefi M. Comparison between the efficacy of ginger and sumatriptan in the ablative treatment of the common migraine. Phytotherapy Res. 2014;28:412-415.

Mauskop A, Varughese J. Why all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium. J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2012;119(5):575‐579. doi:10.1007/s00702-012-0790-2

Nattagh-Eshtivani E, Sani MA, Dahri M, et al. The role of nutrients in the pathogenesis and treatment of migraine headaches: Review. Biomed Pharmacother. 2018;102:317‐325. doi:10.1016/j.biopha.2018.03.059

Pareek A, Suthar M, Rathore GS, Bansal V. Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium L.): A systematic review. Pharmacogn Rev. 2011;5(9):103‐110. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.79105

Wells RE, Beuthin J, Granetzke L. Complementary and Integrative Medicine for Episodic Migraine: an Update of Evidence from the Last 3 Years. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2019;23(2):10. Published 2019 Feb 21. doi:10.1007/s11916-019-0750-8

Zeng Z, Li Y, Lu S, Huang W, Di W. Efficacy of CoQ10 as supplementation for migraine: A meta-analysis. Acta Neurol Scand. 2019;139(3):284‐293. doi:10.1111/ane.13051

Are Your Adrenals Fatigued?

Carving out a home workspace, becoming a home-school teacher overnight – pandemic pivoting is tough. If you feel unsettled and exhausted, you’re not alone. But what if you were already feeling tired, stressed and overwhelmed before? Could your adrenal glands be part of the problem? While there is some debate about the term ‘adrenal fatigue’, we can all agree that stress levels are at an all-time high. People are burning out, and the adrenal glands are major players in the stress response.

Symptoms of Adrenal Overload

Does this sound familiar?

You wake up tired. Even after a full 8 hours of sleep.
You can’t concentrate at work, and rely on coffee and sugary treats to get through the day.
You can’t relax with your family in the evenings, feeling irritable, anxious and stressed.
You have trouble getting to sleep, and often wake up sweating during the night.

Wash, rinse, repeat. Whether we call it adrenal fatigue, adrenal dysregulation or increased allostatic load, what do labels matter when your life looks like this?

Let’s get to know your adrenal glands – what’s actually happening during adrenal fatigue and what can you do about it?

Our Bodies are Old School

What’s the key to understanding where our adrenals fit into the stress response? Evolution.

Our bodies are old-school, designed for a world that no longer exists. Back in the prehistoric day, humans were very vulnerable to predators. When we saw a sabre-toothed tiger coming our way, we had to be ready to either fight it off or run away. Immediately. This ‘fight or flight’ response is literally designed to save our lives.

These days there may be fewer predators to run from, but we feel more threatened than ever. And because evolution hasn’t caught up to our modern lifestyle, our body treats physical and ‘emotional’ threats equally. In other words, the same stress response is initiated whether you’re running from a tiger, or reading an unpleasant email.

The Adrenal Glands in Action

So what actually happens in your body when a stressor hits, and how do your adrenal glands respond?

Let’s say you have a big work project due next week, and all is going well. Suddenly an email comes in from your boss – your deadline just got moved up. You now have 3 days to finish a project you thought you had 7 days to complete. Even before you finish reading the email you notice:

Your heart is pounding
Your breathing speeds up
Your muscles are tense

The HPA Axis: What Happens in the Body When Stress Hits

How did this happen in mere seconds? Let’s look at that scenario again.

Within seconds of opening the email, your brain identified it as a threat and sent the ‘get ready to fight or flee’ instructions to the hypothalamus gland.

The hypothalamus sent the super urgent messages directly to the adrenal glands – that’s why you became a heart-pounding anxious mess in seconds.

The hypothalamus also sent less urgent messages to the pituitary gland, which in turn relayed it to the adrenal glands.

These three glands form a stress-response team you may have heard of: the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis.

The Role Of The Adrenals

What messages did the adrenal glands receive?

– Produce hormones (adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol amongst others)
– Release them into the bloodstream to get to the muscles and organs that can take action.

The Body’s Response to Adrenal Hormones

And what actions do these target muscles and organs take when they get their hormonal instructions from the adrenals?

– Increase heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar
– Dilate pupils
– Expand lung airways
– Redirect blood to the heart, limbs and organs

Makes sense, right? This lightning fast process gives us the immediate energy, oxygen and blood flow needed to fight or flee, and more peripheral vision to see threats.

We Are Over-Taxing The System

Here’s the thing: this system is built for infrequent, physical emergencies. Now we mostly use it for frequent, emotional emergencies. Or put another way: stress. What happens when stress is the rule rather than the exception and your adrenals are working overtime?

What Goes Up Must Come Down

When we keep asking the adrenals to produce and secrete their hormones repeatedly over long periods of time, the result is predictable: things start to break down. If we feel threatened or unsafe more often than not, the system that was designed to help us starts working against us.

Does Modern Stress Ever Go Away?

Herein lies the modern-day problem: when does the threat pass? Or does it pass? Many of us are living under nearly constant low-grade stress. The signs your body is looking for to dial things back may never truly arrive, so the adrenals are working much more than they were designed to.

This leads to exhaustion, weight gain, brain fog, digestive issues, low sex drive and a suite of other unpleasant adrenal fatigue symptoms.

Time To Step Out Of Fight Or Flight Mode

So what can you do to help your body get out of the flight or fight cycle and get back on track?

Find Your Threat Triggers

The best way to help your adrenals help you, is to figure out what you’re threatened by. This is a deceptively simple question, but an important one. We may think that we’re only threatened by truly life or death situations, but our physical reality says something quite different.

Keep a Stress Diary

Try this simple practice: observe yourself for a week to see when you exhibit the immediate stress response, and note these incidents in your journal (or the Notes app on your phone).
Because this complex response happens before you even think about it, it’s a very accurate indicator of what stresses you out. Do you get stressed when talking finances with your significant other? Getting a snarky email from a colleague? Talking to your child’s teacher?

It may not be an action – it’s just as likely to be a fearful thought. How many fearful thoughts do you have in a day? An hour? While reading this article?

Learn What Triggers You & Dial It Back

When you really watch yourself, you may be shocked to see just how many times a day you’re unknowingly putting yourself into fight or flight mode. The goal is to learn which situations trigger you, identify the stress response, and learn to dial it back once you recognise it happening.

Supporting Your Adrenals With Nutrition

If stress tends to get the better of you, what you eat can help. Focus on eating a diet full of vegetables and healthy fats, and low in stimulants like sugar and caffeine.

Supplements That Support The Adrenals
Certain natural supplements may help as well, such as:

Turmeric

Curcumin, the active element in Turmeric, is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, but has also been researched for its ability to support mood and depression.

Licorice Root

Licorice has been studied for its role in helping to regulate cortisol and improve energy levels. It’s important to note that licorice can increase blood pressure, so it should not be taken if yours is already high or you take blood pressure medication.

Vitamin D

Often taken for its role in supporting a healthy immune system, low levels of vitamin D have been linked to the overproduction of cortisol.

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb which has been shown to lower cortisol levels when taken twice a day. Make sure that the tea, tincture or capsule you chose specifies Rosea, as other types of Rhodiola may not have the same research backing.

Get to The Root Cause

These mindfulness-based strategies can help you bring your stress response back into balance – but the reasons why you are feeling reactive may run deeper. Remember all those hormones that the adrenal glands work so hard to produce?

A naturopathic doctor specializing in hormonal balance can run the right lab tests to check your hormone levels, and work with you to create a personalized adrenal fatigue treatment plan that will move you from a habitual stress response to a more relaxed frame of mind. We can also help you understand how to support your adrenal glands with the nutrients they need to promote your body’s ability to handle stress.

Time to get calm, strong, and capable of handling whatever problems your day, or the world, brings!

References:
Dunlop BW, Wong A. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in PTSD: Pathophysiology and treatment interventions. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2019;89:361-379.

Dmitrieva NO, Almeida DM, Dmitrieva J, et al. A day-centered approach to modeling cortisol: diurnal cortisol profiles and their associations among U.S. adults. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013;38(10):2354-2365.

Liao J, Brunner EJ, Kumari M. Is there an association between work stress and diurnal cortisol patterns? Findings from the Whitehall II study. PLoS One. 2013;8(12):e81020.

Heim C, Ehlert, U, Hellhammer DH. The potential role of hypocortisolism in the pathophysiology of stress-related bodily disorders. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2000;25(1):1-35.

Buric I, Farias M, Jong J, et al. What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind-Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices. Front Immunol. 2017;8:670.

Panossian A, Wikman G. Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity. Curr Clin Pharmacol. 2009;4(3):198-219.

Orban BO, Routh VH, Levin BE, Berlin JR. Direct effects of recurrent hypoglycaemia on adrenal catecholamine release. Diab Vasc Dis Res. 2015;12(1):2‐12. doi:10.1177/1479164114549755

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23832433/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21184804/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25723858/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19016404/

Strengthen Your Lungs to Improve Your Respiratory Health

It’s hard not to think about our lungs and how we can keep them healthy amidst all the uncertainty of this pandemic. Seeing our economies shut down and a global health crisis is something almost none of us have had to contend with at this level in our lives.

Best Practices For Lung Health

Understanding what you can do to help your lungs function at their best will help you in more ways than one so we are sharing some top tips you can do at home.

1. Practice Deep Breathing

Did you know that we normally only use about 50 percent of our lung capacity? Increasing the involvement of your entire lungs can help keep them healthy.

How Breathing Works
Let’s take a moment to really examine how our breathing works – and how we can improve it. When you take a deep breath, your diaphragm, muscles and lungs work in harmony to draw in oxygen. When you exhale, you expel carbon dioxide. You’ve probably noticed that taking deeper breaths has a different effect on your body than taking short, shallow breaths. You may also notice that stress tends to make your breathing more shallow and that taking deep breaths can be relaxing.

Involve The Whole Lung
Deeper breaths require greater involvement from more parts of your lungs. That means that the lower sections (where mucus can tend to collect) are activated and mucus is dislodged. Deep breathing has shown to be an effective way to support good lung function for patients with asthma and other respiratory disorders.

Diaphragmatic Breathing
What exactly does deep breathing mean? Try paying attention to the role your diaphragm plays as you inhale and exhale. It might help if you place a hand on your rib cage or at the top of your belly. You should feel your diaphragm rise as you inhale, and lower as you exhale. That simple awareness can help you to consciously expand your lungs.

Maintaining good posture with a straight spine will also help you do this – you want to give your ribs space to expand. As well, count slowly with each breath. It should take just as long to exhale as it does to inhale.

As an added bonus, this breathing exercise can help you to relax – and we all need more of that right now. Deep breathing can lower the production of stress hormones such as cortisol.

2. Exercise

Moving your body requires effort, oxygen and therefore deeper breaths, which can improve your lung capacity as well as supporting your physical health. Do whatever exercise feels good to you while, of course, ensuring that you are still practising appropriate social distancing.

Interval Training For Lung Health
Some evidence suggests that interval training can be a particularly good way to boost lung function, because alternating periods of exercise with periods of rest can help your lungs recover from the exertion as you continue to work out. As always, listen to your body.

3. Stay Hydrated

Drinking enough water can help thin the mucus in your lungs. As well, proper hydration is necessary for maintaining good health overall so it should always be a priority.

4. Breathe Through Your Nose

Protect Your Lungs From Particles
Those little hairs in your nostrils are there for a reason, they act as filters to keep the air you breathe clean, and they warm the air to minimize the shock to your lungs on a cold day. Breathing through your nose provides a buffer which helps to reduce the amount of extra “cleaning” work your lungs need to carry out.

5. Laugh More

Yes, it seems simple, but laughing truly is a great exercise to work the abdominal muscles, increase lung capacity and oxygenate the blood. And let’s face it…comedy moments are the best exercise ever!

6. Clean Cleaning

You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating. If you’re not sure which products you should be using to clean your home, focus on not adding toxins into your environment but rather seeking out healthy cleaning supplies.

Natural Cleaning Products
Baking soda, vinegar and water have always been a tried and true cleaner, and there are plenty of more eco-friendly cleaning products available which use essential oils and natural ingredients. As much as possible, eliminate aerosol sprays and synthetic air fresheners which can be particularly irritating to the lungs.

7. Fresh Air Indoors

As the weather warms up, remember to open up your windows and let the fresh air in. If you live in an area that is busy with traffic, try waiting until night time to freshen up your house. Indoor air filters are another way to ensure the air quality in your home is optimal.

8. If You Smoke, Stop

Having healthy lung function is always important, but now more than ever we need to make sure our lungs and lung capacity are working at peak levels. Research shows that your lung function can start to improve as early as 2 weeks after quitting smoking.

We are living with a lot of uncertainty right now. Taking proactive steps to optimize your health is important and there are many things you can do to help improve your body’s resilience.

Wellness is achieved when the body is able to protect itself against imbalances, breakdowns, and foreign invaders. The human body has evolved powerful defense systems that help it to maintain optimal physical, mental and emotional states. Our lifestyle, past and current health issues as well as our ability to manage stress and trauma all play a role in our state of health.

Supporting our body’s innate ability to heal is not a short-term solution to a problem but rather a daily plan to stay strong and resilient.

If you are looking for help to get your health optimized and work towards your unique version of resilience and wellbeing, give us a call at 416-234-1888. We are here to help you.

References
Breathing study on adults with asthma: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32212422

Diaphragm breathing and stress: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5455070/

Benefits of deep breathing exercises: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24937500

Hydration and pulmonary problems: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14681718/

Exercise and coronavirus: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200331162314.htm

Smoking and COVID-19: https://www.livescience.com/coronavirus-covid-19-risk-and-smoking.html

Effects of quitting smoking: https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/benefits-of-quitting-smoking-over-time.html

Quarantine Cuisine: Eating to Stay Healthy in Isolation

Let’s start with the good news: If you’re self-isolating, you should have more time to devote to creating a healthy diet for yourself. At least, that’s the fantasy that many of us started out with a few weeks ago. However, terms like the “quarantine 15” and “isolation constipation” are starting to appear on social media.

It turns out that eating healthily and avoiding overindulging during a pandemic isn’t always easy, even if we have the best intentions.

How Emotions Affect Food Choices

Perhaps the biggest challenge is that we’re all human. It’s perfectly normal to be feeling a wide range of emotions right now, from hope to boredom, uncertainty to terror and even contentment – sometimes all within the same hour!

Many people turn to food when they’re stressed, whereas others can’t seem to stomach a bite when upset. All of these are perfectly normal reactions to a very unique situation.

The Role Of Cortisol In Comfort Eating

On the surface, it may seem that your motivation to dive into a plate of freshly baked cookies is that they are one of life’s few remaining pleasures.

But there are innate physiological reasons we reach for sweets when we’re stressed. When the body senses that it’s under threat, it releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. And cortisol has been tied to an increase in appetite. Some studies have found that the hormonal cycle (aka sugar high and sugar crash) created when we turn to sweets is actually addictive.

Sweet Seduction

On top of that, many people are turning to baking, both to avoid going to the grocery store and to stay busy. And if you’ve recently drooled over a photo of a friend’s perfect loaf of freshly baked bread you know that the seductive power of social media may also play a role.

Uneven Purchasing

In addition, having to limit our trips to the store can lead to an abundance of non-perishable foods like pasta in the cupboard, in contrast with a shortage of fresh produce in the fridge.

7 Ways To Avoid The “Quarantine Fifteen”

So, what’s a socially isolating person to eat in order to stay healthy? The most important thing is that you take it easy on yourself. Being overly self-critical can escalate the cycle of stress and overeating. Always keep in mind that we’re living through unprecedented developments. There is no “right” way to deal with these changes.

1 – Be Conscious Of Why You Are Grazing
It’s also useful to examine the causes behind any overeating. Do you walk through the kitchen every time you’re bored? Eat chips during your Netflix binge nights?

2 – Practice Mindfulness
Some interesting studies have found that developing a mindfulness practise through yoga or meditation can lead to better food choices. With its positive effect on overall wellbeing, there has never been a better time to take up mindfulness. One unexpected result could be healthier eating habits.

3 – Develop Soul-Nurturing Activities
Delving into activities that give you a sense of satisfaction can help replace the sense of boredom and want that leads to overeating. Look into rewarding pastimes such as fixing things in your home that have been on your to-do list, decluttering that long-ignored hidden shelf, sewing, knitting, felting, teaching your pet a new trick, or even building a raised planter to grow a unique mix of salad greens in the smallest of sunny spots.

Feed the need with self-pride instead of cookies.

4 – Shop Smart
Of course, you can’t eat food that isn’t in the house. So being more mindful of what you buy in the store or order online is also important. If you’re finding it difficult to stay stocked up on fresh produce, investigate produce delivery services in your area.

5 – Vary Your Sources
Local organic farms are a good place to source regular veggie boxes, or if those are not available look into new produce services that many local restaurants are running as a way to stay afloat. If you manage to stagger your shopping from different sources, you can improve your odds of having fresh produce when you need a snack.

6 – Plan For Nutrition
Becoming more conscious of your choices when you’re shopping will also help you make good food choices. Look for easy ways to add more nutrient-dense foods, such as:

● Greens to add to smoothies
● Alternatives to pasta such as zoodles (noodles made from zucchini squash)
● Roasting root vegetables and keeping some on hand (these tasty veggies have the advantage of a long shelf life)
● Try fermentation instead of baking (kimchi and kombucha are much better for your digestion than bread!)

If you’d like to continue baking, that’s great! Just keep in mind that you can find many gluten-free or health-oriented recipes online. You might discover some new favourites.

Keeping specific healthy meals and snacks in mind as you shop can help you ignore the less nutritious choices.

7 – Focus On Health Attributes
Knowing the physiological needs your food is meeting is another angle that can help you make good choices:

Foods That Support Your Digestion

Avoid “isolation constipation” by ensuring you’re consuming enough fibre. This is a great time to try new recipes with beans for example, which happen to also be cheap and easy to store. Here are some good recipes to start with!

Foods That Support A Healthy Immune System

Nutrients such as zinc and vitamins A and D can help support a healthy immune system. Foods rich in zinc include most seeds and nuts. Good sources of vitamin A include orange and yellow fruits and veggies as well as dark green leafy vegetables.

And of course, while we’re talking about immune supportive vitamins, remember to catch a few rays of sunshine to top up your vitamin D. You need skin exposure at the sun’s peak times to get your daily dose, that’s why most of us supplement this essential vitamin.

Aside from your diet, how are you holding up? It’s important to check in with others to maintain your wellbeing. If you would like to talk about ways to stay healthy while in isolation, give the office a call!

References:
Curbing weight gain from emotional eating: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6137864/

Why we overeat when we’re stressed: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4214609/

Yoga and mindful eating: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5932774/

Meditation: Why It’s Vital Right Now

Tense muscles. Obsessing about the news. Anxiety about the future. Difficulty sleeping. Do all of these sound familiar? You’re definitely not alone. There’s no doubt that we are living with a lot of uncertainty right now.

How can we cope?

Doing Nothing To Cope With Everything

The answer might be as simple as doing…. nothing. Simply sitting still and mindfully clearing your thoughts through meditation has an astounding number of benefits that are vital right at this point in history.

In fact, fostering an ongoing meditation practice can change the structure of your brain, providing benefits that continue when you have finished meditating.

In short, meditation may be one of the best things you can do for yourself in troubled times.

The Benefits Of Meditation
Some of the many positive things that can happen when you meditate include:

Lower Blood Pressure
Meditation can decrease the “flight or fight” hormones in your body. As a result of this relaxation response, your blood vessels open up, which in turn improves your blood pressure.

Less Stress-Induced Inflammation
Excess cortisol, one of the central stress hormones, can lead to inflammation in many parts of the body – a common example of this is the gut, with digestive issues being common during times of high stress. Because meditation can lower the amount of cortisol you produce, inflammation is reduced.

Embracing Uncertainty
Despite all of the health benefits, the ultimate goal of meditation isn’t necessarily focused on physical results. It’s more a process of learning to embrace uncertainty.

A More Positive Outlook
Who doesn’t need a more positive outlook right now? Meditation has been found to actually alter (in a good way) the parts of your brain responsible for positive thoughts. As well, by becoming more aware of your thoughts, you can fend off negativity.

Reduced Anxiety And Fewer Obsessive Thoughts
It’s perfectly normal to be experiencing anxiety and obsessive thoughts when faced with a pandemic. However, those thoughts can spiral out of control and negatively affect family members as well as your health. High cortisol levels even lower your immune response, and we all want a strong immune system right now.

How Does Meditation Help With Negative Thoughts?

It can be difficult to imagine gaining control over the thought train when world events, and the changes to our daily lives, seem so overwhelming.

However, meditation teaches us how to experience and sit with those thoughts – without panicking or feeling like we need to repress them. With a little practice, you should be able to just sit with your thoughts and feelings, without judgment or analysis, and start to process them without spiralling out of control. You can be present in the moment without projecting into the future or ruminating on the past.

And right now, faced with so many unknowns, that’s particularly important.

Why Start Now?

You might feel that now is not a good time to start meditation. After all, you’re likely stuck at home and perhaps feel antsy and confined. Who wants to sit still? However, mediation has proven to be an effective mental health treatment and right now we need to be focusing not just on our healthy body but also…a healthy mind.

How To Start Meditating

Many people find the thought of taking up meditation a bit intimidating. After all, it has had an esoteric reputation through the ages. It’s important to know that you don’t have to “master” meditation. It’s OK to be imperfect. Your mind will probably wander, and you may feel uncomfortable at first. That’s perfectly normal.

Setting Up Your Practice

The good news is that it’s surprisingly simple to get started. In basic terms, you just need to:

● Find a comfortable place. Ideally, it will be quiet.
● Sit in a natural position.
● Breathe normally.
● Focus on your breath.
Try not to overthink this: just focus on each exhalation and inhalation. It’s not necessary to force anything.
● If your mind wanders:
(And since you’re human, there’s a good chance that it will) try to sit back and “observe” your thoughts. Don’t analyze them. And don’t scold yourself for losing focus. It’s all part of the process. They are just passing through your brain.

How Long Should You Meditate?

You may have heard of people going on week-long meditation retreats. That’s great – but it’s not really necessary. Just a few minutes a day is a good start. In fact, studies have found that just five minutes can have significant benefits.

And who doesn’t have five extra minutes?

How Often Should You Meditate?

Consistency is a key component of a successful meditation practice. Try to carve out a few minutes a day to dedicate to your mental health. Some people find that it helps to make it the same time every day.

Resources To Get Your Meditation Practice Started

There are quite a few wonderful resources available to help you get started with meditation should you need a little help – here are a few of our favourites:

Headspace
Calm
Wherever You Go, There You Are
Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics

There are many reasons to start meditation. Why not start now? Let us know how you get on – and remember that we are here to support your health and wellness.

Our clinic is still open via phone or video call – and our practitioners are available for essential care appointments. Simply send us an email or call us at 416-234-1888.

References:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25390009
https://www.npr.org/2008/08/21/93796200/to-lower-blood-pressure-open-up-and-say-om
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159112004758
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159112004758
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5946075_Relationships_between_mindfulness_practice_and_levels_of_mindfulness_medical_and_psychological_symptoms_and_well-being_in_a_mindfulness-based_stress_reduction_program
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0306624X19856232
https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Effects-of-Five-Minute-Mindfulness-Meditation-on-Lam-Sterling/7a7529a9e6401679016ab78f398eaaf4487aff84
https://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Abstract/2003/07000/Alterations_in_Brain_
and_Immune_Function_Produced.14.aspx

Chronic Stress Can Affect Your Immunity

If you’re like most people, you’ve read a lot of tips on avoiding COVID-19. You likely know the basics: Wash your hands; keep a safe distance from others; avoid travel and quarantine yourself if you have travelled; and don’t go out at all if you experience any symptoms.

Staying Healthy Starts On The Inside

However, it’s also important to acknowledge that staying healthy starts on the inside. The defense system we all need to take care of in these crazy times is our immune system.

Yet here’s the irony: When we are stressed, our immunity becomes weaker. And right now, we’re all stressed about sickness among other things. Just when we all need a strong immune system, chronic stress has the potential to weaken our defenses.

How Stress Affects The Immune System

Why does stress weaken immunity? The process makes perfect sense if you think of how we lived for most of human history.

Not too long ago, if we perceived a threat, such as a predatory animal in the wild, we had to respond – and quickly! In that sense, our body is primed to protect us.

Fight Or Flight

Let’s take a look at the “flight or fight” response and how stress changes us on a physiological level.

● Blood pressure goes up.
● Heart rate goes up.
● Serotonin levels drop, because you need to stay awake.
● Insulin sensitivity is impaired.
● Digestion slows down to preserve energy.
● Cholesterol goes up.
● The body pumps stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream.

All of these changes are designed to make sure that you have enough energy in the right places – i.e. the arms and legs – to respond to stress appropriately – i.e. fight or run.

Resource Hoarding

That’s because your body wants to put all of its resources into dealing with the immediate threat. This response is actually very helpful – if you need to escape a predator. However, in today’s world, stress is typically more chronic and, let’s face it, unrelenting.

And that’s where the problems start.

Adaptive Physiology

Our body’s ability to respond to stress is called “adaptive physiology.” To understand this, it might help to think of your nervous system as actually two systems:

● Your sympathetic nervous system powers the Fight or Flight response that you need in the face of danger.
● Your parasympathetic nervous system is behind the “Relax and Recharge”, aka “Rest and Digest” response you need in between periods of stress. Without this response, your body’s systems would stay in overdrive.

Essentially, the way in which these two systems work together is not unlike the brakes and gas pedals in your car. One speeds you up, and the other slows you down.

Ideally, your body adapts depending on the situation. The Relax and Recharge period is essential to restoring balance in mind and body.

Putting The Breaks On Stress

Right now, many of us feel like the “gas” is always on, which is a perfectly understandable response when faced with a global crisis.

However, that kind of constant stress can lead to a long list of health problems if the sympathetic nervous system never turns off.

What happens to a car if you only touch the gas and never use the brakes? There’s a high likelihood of a crash.

Don’t Crash Your Immune System

Not surprisingly, your immune system suffers when you’re heading for a crash. All the things that happen during your flight or fight response can lower your immunity. And that’s exactly what you don’t want to happen right now.

6 Ways To Switch Your Body To A Parasympathetic State

So, what can you do? Isn’t stress inevitable at this moment in history? A good starting point is thinking of the two states of your immune system and doing what you can to reach a state of rest and restoration.

1. Look at your mindset.
How you perceive a stressful situation will affect your body’s response to it. Perhaps you’re social distancing and feeling trapped and restless inside your home. That’s stressful. However, consider the difference between feeling stuck at home and feeling safe at home. That simple mental shift can help your nervous system remain in a restorative mode.

Don’t forget: You always have the opportunity to change your attitude.

2. Seek connection.
In times of stress, you should be close to people who restore your sense of wellbeing. It’s important to feel connected and accepted, because a feeling of connection can boost your immunity. However, how can you connect to others while also social distancing?

Fortunately, we’re lucky to live at a time with many options for video chats. Set up virtual coffee dates and regular meetings to touch base with those people who make you feel connected.

3. Honour your body’s natural rhythms.
Many people are having trouble sleeping right now. However, it’s more important than ever to try to get between seven and eight hours a night. Even if your normal routine is disrupted, try to stick to a regular sleep schedule. That means going to bed at the same time every night (yes, even on weekends). As well, don’t dismiss the restorative powers of a good nap.

4. Don’t overcommit.
We’re all under a lot of pressure right now. Take a close look at your commitments and think of how you can eliminate any unnecessary stress. Remember that the goal is to rest your nervous system.

What makes you feel refreshed and restored? Those are the activities to focus on.

5. Eat to optimize your immune system.
Many studies backup the importance of essential nutrients in protecting your immunity. The ideal diet and supplements for you will depend on your unique health profile, but important nutrients include selenium, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and D. In addition, don’t overlook the importance of maintaining a balance of “good bacteria” in your gut. More and more research points to the connection between a healthy gut and a healthy immune system.

In fact, up to 80 percent of your immune cells are found in your gut. The interaction between your gut microbiota and your immune system helps protect you against foreign pathogens.

6. Move your body.
Exercise can help your body’s nervous system maintain equilibrium. It can slow down the release of stress hormones and increase the number of disease-fighting white blood cells. As well, movement helps to regulate the communication between your brain and your body.

However, it’s important to move in a safe way – any irregularities in your body’s alignment can affect this process. Focus on doing something you love and making exercise a part of your daily routine. Consistency is the key! If you’re not sure exactly how to work out with gym closures, check out the multitude of workouts you can find online.

Prioritize Self-Care

Even in stressful times, it’s possible to optimize your immune system. Focus on your body’s need to restore and repair itself and prioritize your self-care. Taking steps towards staying healthy can help you gain a sense of control in an uncertain world. And that will ultimately strengthen your response to stress.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, please reach out. We can work together to create a plan that fits your unique needs!

References:
https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/107673
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2869337/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3150158/
https://neurohacker.com/how-the-gut-microbiota-influences-our-immune-system
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095254618301005

How To Support Your Immune System And Navigate COVID-19

With many of our clients glued to the news of the spread of the novel coronavirus, we want to address the questions we’re receiving daily. Preventing illness altogether may be out of our control, however preparing our bodies, minds and homes can help us to navigate this era with more confidence. Our goal is to give you some clear and actionable tips to support your immune system and reduce the impact this virus has on your health.

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less. – Marie Curie”

What Are The Symptoms Of COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the name given to a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus of unknown origin which is currently spreading quickly throughout the world. Symptoms can be similar to a mild cold, or may exacerbate to pneumonia. A lot is still to be learned about the defining symptoms of this particular virus.

Known Symptoms:
● Cough
● Fever
● Difficulty breathing
● Pneumonia, mild to severe

Who is at risk of catching COVID-19?

Like other coronaviruses, such as those which cause the common cold, this year’s novel coronavirus spreads easily. Unlike the common cold however, because this virus is new, no-one is immune to catching it. In fact, the virus causing COVID-19 seems to have a slightly longer incubation period than most, which means that individuals may unknowingly carry and spread the virus for a few days before symptoms appear. Herein lies the reason for the vast reach this virus is having.

Who is at risk of more serious complications?

As with all illnesses, certain individuals are at a higher risk of serious complications related to COVID-19. This includes anyone over the age of 65 with compromised immune systems and with underlying medical conditions.

In fact, any underlying health condition is a reason to take extra precautions to avoid catching the virus and to support your immune system to fight it off more effectively should you catch it.

Many individuals who contract COVID-19 will have minimal symptoms and some may not even realise they have it.

Keeping A Safe Physical Distance

“Social Distancing” means staying physically far enough away from people you don’t live with to avoid catching, and subsequently passing on, a virus. This is a tried and true technique for quelling epidemics, and it is of the utmost importance for all of us to follow the instruction to self isolate in order for the technique to work.

Make sure that you stay up to date with the recommendations of your local public health department with regards to what types of movement outside of your home are and are not acceptable.

8 Simple Habits To Support Your Immune System

As with anything, there are things that you can do to minimize your risk and help protect or reduce the severity of symptoms from catching a cold, the flu, or the current Coronavirus.

1. Hand Hygiene

This one may seem obvious, but wash your hands well and frequently using warm water and soap. Here is a link to the World Health Organization’s recommended hand washing technique. A good strategy is to implement a policy of everyone washing their hands as soon as they enter your home. It is also a good idea to regularly sanitize high traffic areas around your home such as door knobs, light switches, TV remotes etc.

2. Rest & Sleep Properly

Even though we are all extremely busy, make sure you are getting enough sleep. When you sleep your body goes through natural healing and detox processes that are important for maintaining a strong immune system. It is important not to deprive yourself of that healing time.

Good sleep habits include:
● Reading a good novel at bedtime instead of catching up on the day’s news on your phone
● Turning off your phone’s notifications in the evening
● Turning down the lights to create a more soothing bedtime environment
● Sleeping in complete darkness

3. Eat Nutrient-Dense Whole Foods

“You are what you eat” is a phrase that almost feels outdated. But guess what? It is true. Make sure that you are eating a healthy diet full of whole foods and avoiding too much packaged food.

Good options include lean protein, high fiber vegetables and fruits (complex carbohydrates), as well as nuts and seeds. Cook with plenty of garlic for added protection from colds.

Here are also some foods that are considered supportive of a healthy immune system. If you are unable to find them fresh, frozen is the next best thing.

● Leafy green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli are high in vitamin C and E and flavonoids, all helpful for the immune system to work optimally.
● Orange foods such as oranges, red bell peppers and sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, a protective antioxidant.
● Salmon and other oily fish provide healthy fats for strong cells, and may be helpful in reducing immune-related conditions.
● Turmeric both fresh and powdered is helpful in reducing inflammation in the body. Garlic and ginger may also provide some immune-boosting effects.
● Berries, especially blueberries which contain flavonoids, compounds helpful in fighting off upper respiratory tract infections.
● Probiotic foods such as kefir, kimchi and natural yoghurt contain a variety of good bacteria which are helpful to the immune system.
● Unpasteurised honey such as Manuka honey can help reduce cough symptoms. Take 1 teaspoon in the evening before bed, or sip in the form of a hot, comforting honey and lemon tea.

4. Take Your Supplements

Almost all nutrients in the diet play a crucial role in maintaining an “optimal” immune response, however some have been specifically researched for their role in supporting the immune system.

Now is a good time to use some of those supplements that are cluttering up your cupboard before they go out of date!

Vitamin C

Simple vitamin C is a powerful protective antioxidant which helps to strengthen the body’s defense against pathogens. Studies show that supplementation with vitamin C helps in the prevention and treatment of respiratory infections.

Vitamin C is abundant in foods such as tomatoes and red peppers, leafy green vegetables and citrus fruit.
Adding a daily vitamin C supplement is a good start when you are looking to support your immune system.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D has historically been used, sometimes unknowingly, to treat infections due to the role sunlight plays in increasing the body’s vitamin D levels. In sanitoriums, Tuberculosis treatment included exposing patients to sunlight which was thought to directly kill the tuberculosis.

A 1994 study of 190,000 subjects showed that individuals with lower vitamin D levels were more likely to self-report a recent upper respiratory tract infection than those with sufficient vitamin D in their system.

10 – 15 minutes of time spent outdoors with the sun on your skin (taking all usual precautions to avoid sunburn) can help increase your body’s natural vitamin D levels, and supplements are readily available as well.

Probiotics

If you’re not already taking a probiotic, look for a high quality version containing multiple strains. L. rhamnosus is a strain of probiotic which is often studied for its protective effect in respiratory infections.

Zinc

Zinc is the second most abundant trace mineral in the body (after iron), and it is present in every cell. It’s fundamental to wound healing, skin health, brain health, DNA synthesis and protein production, and it supports over 300 enzymes that aid in metabolism, digestion, nerve function and many other processes.

Zinc’s roles in immune cell function and cell signalling make it an indispensable mineral when we aim to reduce the risk of infections and promote immune response.

As well as being readily available as a supplement in the form of tablets, sprays and lozenges, zinc is plentiful in the following foods:

● Fish & shellfish
● Meat & poultry
● Beans & legumes
● Nuts & seeds
● Dairy & eggs
● Whole grains
● Certain vegetables such as mushrooms & asparagus

5. Stay Hydrated

One of the things people find the hardest to do when stressed is remembering to drink enough water. The rule of thumb is that if you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated.

What you should aim for is at least 8 – 10 glasses of water per day. This is so beneficial to every aspect of your well-being. Water helps those vitamins & micronutrients to move around between cells, helps your cells clean themselves out at night, and your lymphatic and urinary systems to flush the bad stuff out so that you feel refreshed and healthy. Being properly hydrated helps your immune system, skin, nails, hair, muscles… the list goes on!

If you are someone who just doesn’t like water; try adding in a squirt of lemon. Not only does it add a more palatable taste but it contains vitamin c and has liver cleansing properties as well.

6. Reduce Stress

Stress reduction is top of the list of healthy lifestyle habits, and is particularly important at times like these. Find small ways to calm things (and yourself / kids) down throughout the day, and definitely try to avoid blasting CNN 24/7.

When we are feeling stressed out our body feels it too. This is not just a psychological issue, it’s physiological as the stress hormone cortisol changes the body’s reactions to food, sleep and immunity.

Use hydrotherapy (bath, swimming, showers) break up the day with some outdoor time, try an infrared sauna, take up meditation, read a good book, move your body (exercise is key to reducing stress), or sing a little karaoke… the list is endless – whatever feels calming, make a little time for it daily.

7. Reduce Your Sugar Intake

Consuming too much sugar – sugary drinks being a common culprit – can have a negative effect on the cells in your immune system that target pathogenic bacteria. The effects of sugar on immunity are immediate and can last for a few hours after consumption.

Pay attention to your sugar intake, and if cravings start to hit do your best to curb them with strategies such as eating a handful of berries or fruit, or drinking a big glass of water.

8. Keep Alcohol To A Minimum

Research indicates that excessive drinking may impair the function of the immune cells in your lungs. This means that a binge drinking session could lower your defences for a few hours, leaving your respiratory system less efficient at identifying and destroying invading pathogens.

Drinking also affects your gut health. The balance of your microbiome is affected with an overgrowth of potentially harmful bacteria and a reduction in beneficial bacteria.

Drinking and depression have a long history together too. If you are one of the 264 million people who suffer from depression, alcohol consumption only makes things worse.

So have the occasional glass of wine, but be careful to avoid starting new bad habits that can affect your body’s innate ability to heal and be strong.

What To Do If You Think You Have COVID-19

Despite your best efforts, the novel coronavirus might still infiltrate your home or community. For most of us, this will mean a mild to moderate bout of illness, whereas for others it may be more severe and require hospitalization. If you feel your symptoms may be consistent with COVID-19 there is no need to panic, it is always best to deal with the facts of the situation calmly.

First Contact Your Family Doctor Or Local Public Health Service

First and foremost, telephone your family doctor or your local public health department / telehealth service to find out what your next steps are. This may include specific instructions to go to a local testing centre, rather than going to a clinic or emergency department.

If You Are Advised To Stay Home

Should you be advised to stay home, make sure to keep tabs on your symptoms and re-connect with public health if things change. Here are some things you can do which may help keep your illness as short and painless as possible:

1 – Stay Well Hydrated

You likely will not be overly hungry during this time so sticking to soups and/or bone broth is a good plan. Drink plenty of water, and add some apple, blueberry or pomegranate juice to help with your electrolytes.

Herbal teas such as Ginger, Peppermint, Rooibos and Chamomile can be soothing as well as hydrating to help you feel better.

2 – Humidify To Relieve Congestion

Using a neti-pot or humidifier can help to relieve chest congestion. If you don’t own either, try closing the bathroom door and running the shower as hot as possible to create a makeshift steam room. A few drops of Eucalyptus oil in the bathtub can help bring some relief to the lungs as well.

3 – Get lots of Sleep

Sleep allows your immune system to do its job. Any respiratory illness can bring with it a deep exhaustion, and Covid-19 is no exception. Listen to your body and allow it to have the rest it needs to heal.

4 – When It’s Over, Sanitize Everything… Again

Once your symptoms ease up and you are feeling more like yourself, it is generally a good practice to sanitize everything that you can. Make sure you change your bedsheets and your toothbrush.

When To Seek Urgent Medical Help For Your Symptoms

Pneumonia is a real risk with COVID-19, so it is important to keep tabs on your symptoms.

If your fever climbs to 39° C or higher, you have trouble breathing with only slight exertion, feel chest pain or pressure, sudden dizziness, confusion, or severe vomiting – these are all symptoms which warrant a call to 911 or your local public health department’s telehealth number.

We hope this information helps you to feel calm and confident in your ability to navigate your health at this complex time. Remember, supporting your immune system is always your best first line of defense against all illnesses. If you would like to discuss a long term plan to keep your health and immune system in the best shape possible, please give our clinic a call, we’re here for you!

References:

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2001468
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4863266/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5664031/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23830380
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3928210/
https://ard.bmj.com/content/73/11/1949
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19896252
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20359267
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4848651/
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100810122045.htm
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12879758
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166406/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166406/#R10
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29099763
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22280901
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4979858/

Fatty Livers: Natural Tips to Restore Liver Health

You might think that a sluggish liver is something that only heavy drinkers or fans of fried food have to worry about. However, conditions like fatty livers are becoming increasingly common among people who don’t drink much alcohol at all. In fact, a fatty liver affects up to 25 to 30 percent of us. And its effects can be far-reaching.

Hepatic Steatosis

Let’s start with an important distinction. It is true that alcoholics are more prone to fatty livers, or hepatic steatosis. When a problem drinker has too much fat in their liver, it’s also called alcoholic fatty liver disease. Perhaps not surprisingly, in non-alcoholics this condition is called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

What exactly is a fatty liver?

A simple explanation is that it happens when fat accumulates in the liver. Your liver is an organ that metabolises the fat in your diet, and it’s normal to have some fat in and around it. But excessive amounts can lead to inflammation. That can lead to scarring, and if left unchecked, cirrhosis, which carries many health risks. The end result can be eventual liver failure, which can be fatal. In fact, it’s the 12th most common cause of death in the U.S.

Of course, for most of us, the consequences of a fatty liver aren’t as severe. However, a fatty liver can take a big toll on your overall well being and energy levels.

Symptoms of a Fatty Liver

Dull Ache Behind the Ribs

Have you ever felt a nagging pain in the upper right quadrant of your abdomen, the area just behind your lower rib cage? That can be a sign of liver problems. The pain is often felt as a dull ache, but can progress to include nausea or vomiting.

Chronic Fatigue

Here’s another question: Do you ever feel chronically tired? If you feel as if you can’t catch up on getting enough rest, or that you just don’t have the energy that you used to, you might want to investigate your liver function. After all, your liver is responsible for processing the nutrients from the food that you eat. When it’s not functioning properly, you could miss out on valuable sources of energy.

Because these symptoms can be easily dismissed, it’s important to see a qualified practitioner if you suspect a sluggish liver, as proper testing such as a blood test and sometimes ultrasound are necessary to diagnose the condition or to put your mind at ease.

Causes of Fatty Livers

Alcoholism

The “classic” cause of liver problems is excessive drinking. However, more people who are experiencing fatty liver symptoms aren’t heavy drinkers at all.
Obesity
So, what’s to blame? Obesity. That’s largely because obesity creates the kind of inflammation that leads to your liver storing fat. The connection between a fatty liver and obesity isn’t a simple matter of how much you weigh. It’s also connected to where that body fat is stored. Fat that accumulates around your belly is more likely to signal liver issues.

High Sugar Diet

A diet high in sugar and simple carbohydrates can trigger liver issues as well. Although you may have thought that a high-fat diet would be the prime culprit, simple carbs are equally at risk for creating a fatty liver. That’s because a high-carb diet can lead to inflammation as well as creating conditions in your gut microbiota that promote fat absorption in the liver. In particular, drinking too many sweet drinks is a major cause of liver fat accumulation.

Treating a Fatty Liver

Weight Loss

Studies have found that the most effective way to treat fatty livers is to lose weight. Even a small amount of weight loss can help reduce inflammation, improve fat metabolism and improve liver function.

Healthy Nutrition

A whole-foods, low-carb approach to dropping extra pounds is often effective. Strategies that have been found to help liver health include:

● Consuming lots of fibre to improve elimination
● Drinking antioxidant green tea
● Choosing healthy monounsaturated fats, which are found in foods such as avocados, olive oil, and nuts
● Adding plenty of nutritious and anti-inflammatory green vegetables such as broccoli
● Choosing fish high in omega 3 fatty acids, such as salmon and sardines

At the same time, you should limit:
● Alcohol
● Sugar
● Red meat
● Refined white carbs such as white bread and white rice

Exercise

In addition, exercise can help lower the levels of fat in your liver. Interestingly, the benefits of exercise happen even if weight loss isn’t the end result.

Low-intensity cardio, high-intensity interval training, and strength training have all been proven to be effective. The most important thing is to be consistent with the activities you enjoy.

Supplements to Support Liver Metabolism

Several supplements show promise in treating fatty livers, including milk thistle and berberine. Discuss these with your Naturopathic doctor to make sure that they are right for you.

Your liver is amazingly resilient, in fact it is the only visceral organ in your body that is able to regenerate. A full liver can regenerate from as little as 25% of the original liver! Taking action to protect the health of your liver will help to protect your energy levels and prevent more serious health problems down the road.

If you have been diagnosed with Fatty Liver Disease or if would like to go over the lifestyle changes that can help prevent liver damage, please give us a call. We can help.

References:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23273500″
https://www.wjgnet.com/1007-9327/full/v23/i36/6571.htm
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https://translational-medicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12967-015-0383-6

Don’t Let Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Zap Your Energy

A diagnosis of Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, means that your thyroid gland is not producing high enough hormone levels to carry out its many roles in the body.

Thyroid hormones play roles in a wider range of physical functions than most of us realise, so when those hormone levels get out of whack, the entire body can be affected. There can be a number of reasons this happens, ranging from nutritional deficiencies to radiation, with one of the more common reasons being an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Is More Common Than You May Think

Affecting approximately 10% of women over the age of 30, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Some studies put the incidence of Hashimoto’s as high as five percent of the overall population.

What is Hashimoto’s?

The condition gets its name from the Japanese physician who first identified it in 1912. It’s important to understand that Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disorder. In other words, with Hashimoto’s, your immune system somehow perceives that your healthy thyroid is a threat to your wellbeing, and attacks it in response.

Autoimmune disorders like this can be frustrating since they often don’t have a direct, easily identified cause. They can also be tricky to diagnose. In fact, up to 60 percent of people who have a thyroid issue don’t know that they have it.

Who Is At Risk Of Hashimoto’s?

Women
Certain conditions can make it more likely that you will develop Hashimoto’s. For example, women are from five to eight times more likely to develop the disease.

Previous Autoimmune Disease
Your risk is also highest at middle age. Having other autoimmune disorders (such as lupus, celiac disease, or rheumatoid arthritis) can also make you more vulnerable.

Gluten Intolerance
Some research has linked Hashimoto’s to diets high in gluten. Although gluten doesn’t directly cause Hashimoto’s, gluten consumption does seem to increase the risk for autoimmune disorders in general. And interestingly, people with celiac disease are three times more likely to have a thyroid problem.

Stress
Other research suggests a link between chronic stress and Hashimoto’s. This connection could be due to the interaction between stress and our immune systems.

What Are The Symptoms Of Hashimoto’s?

The symptoms of Hashimoto’s often build slowly, which is why they often go unnoticed. As the thyroid experiences more damage, many people find they become increasingly tired. In fact, overwhelming fatigue is one of the most common complaints with this disease.

You may also experience a long list of frustrating symptoms, including:
● Weight gain
● Muscle aches
● Thinning hair
● Dry skin
● Constipation
● Fertility problems
● Poor cold tolerance
● Depression
● Memory issues
● Hoarseness
● Low libido
● Slow heart rate
● A lump at the base of the throat, due to an enlarged thyroid

Many of the symptoms listed above are easy to blame on other health issues – even simply growing older. However, the long term-effects of Hashimoto’s can greatly affect your quality of life. And over time, low levels of thyroid hormone can lead to elevated cholesterol levels. That’s why it’s important to seek help if you suspect Hashimoto’s.

How Is Hashimoto’s Diagnosed?

Many conventional medical doctors run just one test for thyroid problems – Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). However, because thyroid problems can be complex, the result doesn’t always provide an accurate diagnosis. High TSH may well indicate that the body is trying very hard to stimulate an under-responsive thyroid gland, however it doesn’t tell us why. And a normal TSH result does not rule out more complex issues.

For a thorough evaluation of your thyroid health, more in-depth testing is often required. After all, your body works as an integrated unit, and TSH is just one piece of the puzzle.

Help! I am Having Trouble Managing Hashimoto’s. What Can I Do?

Hashimoto’s is typically treated with a thyroid hormone supplement to restore the body’s levels. However, many patients have difficulty finding the exact level of supplementation to alleviate their symptoms.

A holistic approach aims to address the root cause of the autoimmune condition, in addition to supporting the thyroid and using thyroid hormone supplements as needed. This usually means making improvements to your overall health and balancing other hormone levels to support the whole system.

Supplements For Hashimotos’s
Supplements that may help include:
● Selenium
● Vitamin B12
● Zinc
● Ashwagandha

Lifestyle changes To Support Thyroid Health
Good habits can have a positive effect on Hashimoto’s, including:

● Reduce the amount of sugar that you eat (and drink)
This includes sugar substitutes, which have been directly linked to Hashimoto’s. Artificial sweeteners can lower the number of “good” bacteria in your gut, which can negatively impact your immune system.

● Watch Your Gluten Intake
Gluten and autoimmunity are interconnected, so it is a good idea to reduce the amount of gluten in your diet. Quinoa and rice are both good replacements, as are gluten-free crackers made with flax seeds. Keep in mind that the goal is to add variety to the diet, so avoid replacing all gluten products with a highly processed corn based version.

● Focus on natural, high-fibre foods
Because of the important link between gut health and immunity, keep your gut in top shape by consuming enough fibre to keep things moving.

● Reduce stress
Yes, that’s easier said than done in today’s busy world! However, it’s also important to remember that looking after your own health (even if that means cutting back on your responsibilities) will ultimately make you better able to look after your loved ones and your other responsibilities. As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup, so taking care of yourself is step one in taking care of others.

If you recognize the symptoms of Hashimoto’s described above, or if you’ve been given a diagnosis but are having trouble managing your symptoms, let’s talk. Together we can get a handle on your energy levels so that you can start feeling like yourself again.

References:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6221534/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28829155
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30060266
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6688766/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15650357
https://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085(15)00767-2/fulltext?referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov%2F

Are Distractions Reducing Your Productivity?

Here’s a challenge: Can you read this article from beginning to end without being distracted? And how will any distractions affect your ultimate understanding of the subject? The answers might surprise you.

We tend to think that distractions are a normal part of life, but it’s often a valuable exercise to take a step back and consider the impact of constant interruptions. Why is this important? Like most people, you have a lot to accomplish every day. You also have goals you want to reach. Perhaps you want to work towards greater health, making a bigger impact with the work you do or improve your relationships. And not being able to focus can impact your ability to reach those goals.

The Hidden Cost of Distraction

Interestingly, many people argue that they are more efficient when they are busy and multi-tasking. And in fact, researchers have found that we do actually work faster when we’re faced with a lot of distractions. That may be because we subconsciously feel that we have to overcompensate for the interruptions.

Higher Anxiety
However, studies have also found that the cost of distractions affects something far more important than your productivity: your wellbeing. That’s because distractions make you feel more stressed and anxious. And higher levels of anxiety can affect every part of your body.

Lower Accuracy
As well, being distracted can affect your accuracy. It makes sense: Your brain can only handle so much input at a time. However, what is surprising is how little it takes to derail your focus and affect your accuracy. As little as three seconds of distraction (the time it takes to glance at your phone after it beeps) can affect your focus and, in turn, your accuracy.

Distraction Recovery Time
The effects of even short distractions like that are startling. One study found that it takes an astounding 23 minutes and 15 seconds to regain your focus after an interruption. Let’s put that in perspective for a moment. How often does your phone ring or beep while you’re doing something else? If it takes over 20 minutes to recover from every notification, how much of your day is spent in “distraction recovery”? And does the loss of that time affect your long-term health and your goals?

Altered Memory Function
Consider what happens when you are looking things up while you watch a movie. Do you really follow the plot as carefully? Do you remember the details of the movie as well? Science suggests that you don’t. In fact, researchers have found that the way we remember things has changed since the advent of the Internet. Our memory functions have been altered.

How To Prevent Distractions

If you would like to minimize the impact of distractions in your life, it’s important to recognize the distinction between a needed break and a distraction. A break can be a good time to recharge and clear your mind. We’re typically more productive after we have stepped away from work for a bit. Breaks that are planned usually provide an incentive to work hard. In contrast, a distraction can come out of nowhere.

Although we tend to think of distractions as out of our control, we can take steps to reduce them.

1. Take Control Of Your Devices

Yes, we all rely on our phones – but do we really need to be notified every single time something happens? This is a personal preference and will depend on your situation, but it helps to be aware that you can customize your phone’s notifications. For example, parents are often reluctant to turn their phones off in case their kids need them, but you can adjust your settings so that all but a few specific contacts are muted.

It’s ok to let people know that, starting now, you may not respond right away to email or text messages. If you get a lot of emails at work, a good habit is to set aside specific times for checking your email, for example once every two hours or in the morning and at the end of the day.

2. Turn Off Your Notifications

It might feel like an adjustment at first to do away with the little red dot that tells you how much has been happening on Facebook, Twitter or in the news, but you’ll soon realize that you don’t miss anything important. You simply gain more control over when and where you get information. (It might help to remember that the ultimate goal of the apps on your device isn’t to keep you informed – it’s to make money by grabbing your attention.)

3. Schedule Your Breaks

It’s important to take a break when focused on a lengthy task. You’re less likely to be distracted and stay on task if you schedule a bit of time to relax – see it as a reward if that helps. Regular breaks can actually make you more productive! However, those breaks should be mindful ones, not filled with more things begging for your attention. So take a walk, meditate, or even have a quick nap. The important thing is to clear your mind.

4. Train Yourself To Regain Focus

Now that you understand how long it can take to regain your focus after each distraction, make a conscious effort to get back on task faster!

Does The Way You Live Your Life Make It Harder To Pay Attention When It Matters?

It’s also important to look at how aspects of your lifestyle can affect your focus. If you’re rested and healthy, distractions may not impact you as much as they would otherwise.

Simple adjustments like introducing a 10-minute-a-day meditation practice, or going to bed 30 minutes earlier, can positively impact your ability to focus and improve your response to interruptions.

Outside Influences That Can Affect Your Focus

If you have tried all the tricks and still find it difficult to stay on task it might be a good idea to check in on your health. Many imbalances such as thyroid problems, hormonal imbalances and nutrient deficiencies can lead to “foggy thinking” and slow response times. The good news is, we can help you to uncover these issues with a proper health assessment that includes lab tests.

How are distractions affecting your health? It’s something to think about. if you have been making efforts but still find it harder to focus than before – brain fog, forgetfulness, there could be more factors at play so give us a call!

References:
https://www.ics.uci.edu/~gmark/chi08-mark.pdf
http://www.yalescientific.org/2013/05/is-google-ruining-your-memory-the-science-of-memory-in-the-digital-age/
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mental-downtime/